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Varadkar becomes Ireland's first openly gay prime minister

By
Ed Adamczyk
Leo Varadkar was elected the Republic of Ireland's prime minister on Wednesday. At 38 he is the youngest, and the first openly gay, person in the office. Photo by Aidan Crawley/EPA
Leo Varadkar was elected the Republic of Ireland's prime minister on Wednesday. At 38 he is the youngest, and the first openly gay, person in the office. Photo by Aidan Crawley/EPA

June 14 (UPI) -- Leo Varadkar, 38, an openly gay son of an Indian immigrant, was elected the Republic of Ireland's prime minister on Wednesday.

A 57-40 vote in the Dail, Ireland's parliament, with 47 abstentions, came Wednesday. Varadkar assumed leadership of the Fine Gael party in May. He replaces Enda Kenny, who stepped down as party leader that month and announced he would remain Taoiseach, or prime minister, until a successor was chosen.

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Kenny nominated Varadkar to the position.

"As the country's youngest holder of this office, he speaks for a new generation of Irish women and Irish men," Kenny said of Varadkar, the BBC reported.

"He represents a modern, diverse and inclusive Ireland and speaks for them like no other, an Ireland in which each person can fulfill their potential and live their dreams," Kenny said prior to the vote.

Varadkar, a doctor, is the son of an Indian doctor and an Irish nurse. He announced he was gay several months before a 2015 referendum made Ireland the world's first country to legalize same-sex marriage via referendum.

Aside from being the country's first openly gay prime minister, Varadkar is also Ireland's youngest prime minister and the first from an ethnic minority background.

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After the election, the center-right politician promised the Dail, "I've been elected to lead but I promise to serve."

He told legislators "the government that I lead will not be one of left or right because those old divisions don't comprehend the political challenges of today. The government I lead will be one of the new European centers as we seek to build a republic of opportunity."

The Irish Times reported Varadkar then traveled to President Michael Higgins' residence to sign the warrant of office and complete the election process.

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